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A tip of the hat to weekly newspaper correspondents like Ida

In today's "Neighbors" column, a reader shares the local slice-of-life stories recounted by a Minnesota woman for her local weekly newspaper in Montana.

Bob Lind
Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist. The Forum
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Many of you live in or come from or near towns which have weekly newspapers. If you do, you know those papers have correspondents who report what’s going on in their area.

Well, that brings us to a woman who was from Fergus Falls, Minn., who went on to typify correspondents for weeklies wherever they are.

She’s Ida Hunnewell, of Whitefish, Mont.

Newspaper clippings from 1982 told about Ida. Cynthia Sillers, West Fargo, came across them in her files a while ago and sent them to Neighbors.

Cynthia lived in Whitefish from 1972 to 1978.

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“Each week, the Whitefish Pilot ran Ida’s column,” she says. “It always made me laugh when I read it.

“But Ida had many fans!”

The articles say Ida was 70 when the stories about her were published in 1982, so she probably is no longer living.

She was 7 when her family moved from Fergus Falls to Whitefish. She attended Whitefish schools through seventh grade, which was the extent of her education.

She was married to Bill Hunnewell. They lived in Olney, a tiny town near Whitefish. It was Olney news that she wrote for the Pilot.

What major news did she write? Here are samples:

“Mr. and Mrs. Shorty Clements and boys have been gone for two weeks to Idaho to see their parents. They said there was lots of snow in Idaho.”

“Pastor Steve Ratzlaff, wife and boys had supper guests on Saturday, Feb. 13.”

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“Mr. and Mrs. Bob Thayer went to Missoula again so Bob could have his hand cut open and they found a piece of wood in it next to the bone of his thumb.”

“There was a wedding on Saturday at 2 p.m. in our Olney Community Church. It was a real nice one. Pastor Tim Goold did the wedding. The two that got married were Norman Savage, Olney, and Christina McCarthy, Kalispell. I think they are living in Olney for now.”

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So it went, week after week.

The clippings said Ida began every morning by reading her Bible. She and Bill were great-great-grandparents. They lived in a house in Olney they had built in the 1940s.

And every week, she sent her stories about Olney to the Pilot.

How much did she get paid?

Nothing.

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“I just did it for the fun,” she told a reporter, “and I guess because my mother did it.” Her mother had written a similar column on Whitefish events.

Ida quit being a correspondent for three or four years, but she resumed her column when a new editor agreed to pay her 5 cents per column inch of her published articles. Later, her pay jumped to 25 cents per inch, and when the story about her came out, it had climbed to 35 cents. But she said she still wrote the town’s news items “mostly for the fun of it.”

There you have something about this Fergus Falls native who became popular for doing what some people in many towns do: write reports for the local newspaper about who went to whose house for supper yesterday and other not-so-big but fun-to-read stories.

Neighbors tips its hat to all you weekly correspondents.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.

Related Topics: FAMILYFERGUS FALLS
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